State lawmakers preparing global warming legislation are feeling the fallout from a clean energy coalition’s opposition to a nuclear power plant bill.
State Rep. Jim Soletski, D-Green Bay, is one of four lawmakers developing the global warming legislation based on recommendations made last year by the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming. The task force recommended easing state restrictions on construction of nuclear power plants.
The task force included representatives from the Wisconsin Citizens Utility Board, Sierra Club Wisconsin and Clean Wisconsin Inc. But those same groups on Tuesday stood with the Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free Wisconsin Coalition in opposition to lifting the state’s restrictions on nuclear development.
“To be honest with you, I’m still very upset about it,” Soletski said. “It’s hard to deal with some people when they appear to me to be working against the discussion we’ve had about working toward safe, reliable energy in Wisconsin.
“I feel like I can’t trust them.”
Charlie Higley, Citizens Utility Board executive director and a member of the task force, said Tuesday’s opposition was not directed at Soletski’s bill. Rather, Higley said, the coalition is targeting a bill introduced by state Rep. Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem.
Huebsch wants to lift all state restrictions on nuclear plant development. The global warming task force recommended leaving in place some hoops for such projects to go through.
State law requires proposed nuclear power plants meet two standards beyond those that govern nonnuclear plants: identify a federally licensed dumping ground for spent nuclear fuel and submit to a Public Service Commission of Wisconsin cost analysis no matter who owns the plant and no matter how much electricity it produces.
Nonnuclear power plants, according to state law, are subject to a cost analysis only if the owner is a utility or the plant produces more than 100 megawatts of electricity.
Huebsch’s bill would remove both nuclear standards and let the PSC review a nuclear plant by the same guidelines as any other power plant. The global warming task force recommended repealing only the dumping ground requirement.
PSC Chairman Eric Callisto said he supports the global warming task force’s approach because it eases the state into nuclear power plant discussions rather than forcing the issue.
“I’m not saying I fully support nuclear,” he said, “but I think the recommendations untie our hands.”
But, Callisto said, the PSC will conduct a cost analysis of every nuclear power plant proposal.
If that’s the case, Huebsch said, he doesn’t understand why his bill is causing such hand-wringing. The only difference, he said, between his bill and the task force recommendations is that his bill takes the PSC at its word, and the task force supports a redundant requirement for cost analysis.
Huebsch said the task force members opposing his bill are making a mistake.
“I don’t think they thought ahead,” he said. “What they have done is begin to unravel a fragile coalition and given the green light for other members to walk away from the recommendations.”
Soletski said it’s his bill he’s worried about, and the timing of the opposition doesn’t help.
“They make this announcement when our bill is getting ready to be rolled out,” he said. “It poisons the discussion.”